The stereotype of creatives and intellectuals hanging in noisy public places is well-known, from the coffee houses of the enlightenment to the street cafes of 1920s Paris, to hipster coffee shops today. That so many creative people work and meet in these places is probably no coincidence, as researchers now know that moderate levels of noise encourage creative thinking.
Too much noise makes it hard to think, but moderate levels of noise increase creative thinking by interrupting linear thought patterns. This forces people to think more abstractly, finding creative links and connections. Marketers and startups can use these principles to help create the right environment for encouraging consumer creativity and adoption of new products.
Too many businesses ignore environmental factors, such as noise, in marketing. Step out ahead of your competition and take advantage of the power of noise to bring your customers around to your products and services.
Interrupting Routine Thinking with Noise
Psychologists and marketers have known for some time that creative thinking is different from concrete linear thinking. Creative thinking wanders and creative thinkers are less likely to fixate on certain ideas and assumptions, letting them find new connections and abstract patterns.
Building on this understanding of creativity in a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, (jstor.org/stable/10.1086/665048) researchers from the University of British Columbia brought in a number of people to study their responses to various creative tasks, including word guessing games, idea creation, and innovation adoption. During each test, the researchers played ambient noise recorded in places such as cafes at varying volumes. The researchers found that the people who attempted creative tasks worked best with noise at a moderate volume level, as opposed to no added noise, low noise or high noise, and the results were the same when testing the probability of innovation adoption.
How to Influence Customers with Light Distraction
This research offers two main areas of interest for marketers. To begin with, when coming up with your own marketing strategies and tactics you might want to head to areas with moderate levels of ambient noise instead of locking yourself away in silence. This is no big problem; many people already work in noisy environments, whether it be open offices or those ubiquitous coffee shops.
More interestingly for marketers is the potential of noise to influence customer decisions, especially in retail settings. By keeping ambient noise in retail stores neither too loud nor too quiet, your customers should make more creative buying decisions overall. This is especially important for marketers developing marketing strategies for new and innovative products.
Create the right retail noise environment and customers will be able to think beyond their usual linear assumptions. Use noise to increase your customer’s abstract thinking abilities and help them understand new innovation, increasing the chances that they will make the dive into new products and services.
There are a number of ways to control noise in retail environments. These include sound barriers to keep noise under control, sounds systems to control the type of background noise, and special features such as fountains and fireplaces for authentic and organic ambient sound. The bustling atmosphere of an open kitchen restaurant is a great example of noise built right into the workings of a business.
Beyond the marketing applications of noise in retail environments, some more creative ways to use ambient noise include using the right level of background noise in internet advertising. While traditional television ads often blasted their music at audiences in order to stand out, it may be better to use moderate volume background noise in web advertisements, such as in informational advertisements on social media. Not only is this approach less likely to annoy potential customers, moderate levels of noise will make them more likely to think creatively and see the benefits of a product.
Keep Noise at Appropriate Levels for Customer Satisfaction
Many marketers already use noise to try to create the right environment for customers. Supermarkets and malls have used light music for as long as most people can remember. But some stores that pump up the volume too high may be making it hard for customers to think at all. Aim for moderation in your marketing efforts with noise, whether it is ambient sound or music.
Don’t pump up the volume on the music. Too much of a good thing might become a bad thing, and the people that don’t like the noise may just walk away. Aim your marketing strategy at bringing people out of their hardened shells by distracting their thinking with moderate levels of background noise, but leave it there in the background instead of letting it overwhelm your products and services.